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Oakley Factory Tour | How Are Cycling Sunglasses Made?

Oakley Factory Tour | How Are Cycling Sunglasses Made?

– This is the headquarters of Oakley. You could probably guess, I see, from the view behind me. Now, in there, the legendary eyewear is both designed and manufactured. Not to mention a whole load
of their other products, like indeed, their helmets. We have been given the rare opportunity of having a look around and you, are coming too. (upbeat music) It’s located in southern California, Orange County to be precise and just a stone’s throw
from the Pacific Ocean. This aerial view of the
facility gives you an idea of the scale of the place. This is where we are currently and to the left, our sales
and marketing offices and to the right, manufacturing. Unlike most factories, this
one is designed to impress and I think it does,
with good reason though because the public are
allowed in here as well. There is a shop over there and a customer services point, even a chap to clean your glasses for you. It does sound a little
bit quieter than normal, but that’s because we asked
them to turn the music off so that we could film. Now, in total, this building
is 600,000 square feet. Over a thousand people work here and most of them in manufacturing. Which I’ve gotta say, took me by surprise because, I’ll confess, I
didn’t realize that any Oakleys were still made in California let alone over 70% of all Oakleys sold. Now we get on to that point in name, There is a story to tell. We’ve got a meeting with a man who literally wrote the book on Oakley. He’s gonna help us talk us through it. (upbeat music) Brian, as we are about to
go back into the history, the official Oakley
tour with Brian Takumi, who’s the VP of Product Creative. Before we get stuck in, Brian, what actually is your role in Oakley now? – So my role now, is to actually work with the brand team overseas and talking when we roadmap product, what is the direction of the products we’re gonna make to
work with the brand team to make sure we align with how we see the brand coming to life
and what it stands for. And so what we’ll do is write the stories and narratives
behind the emotional reasons why our product exists, besides just the features
and benefits of it. – Oakley was started
in 1975 by Jim Jannard. And his first product was handlebar grips for motocross bikes. Now, by all accounts, he wanted to create a grip that actually made a difference. And so he designed something quite radical by the standards of
the day, and he sourced a specific material that actually becomes gripper in the wet. A material still used
on the eyewear today. It wasn’t until 1980 that the first eyewear appeared, though. And it was the O-Frame goggles, followed by ski goggles in 1983. Right, so phase one, I guess was motocross and BMX grips and goggles. Phase two then, is that when we start getting on to eyewear? – Yep, what we’ll walk
to next in this next bay, we’ll look at some of
the history and origins about how he started eyewear. – Cool, let’s do it. – One of the things he asked himself is why isn’t there a piece of eyewear on the market, a sunglass, that has the same coverage as a goggle? And so he said well, I make goggles, I bet I can go back and make one. So what he did, was he
went back to his shop, took a goggle lens, cut out a slightly smaller
shape than a goggle, took a coat hanger and made
some ear stems out of it. – [Simon] I thought
that was kind of a joke, but this is legit, is it? – That’s not the original one, but that pretty much recreates
what he did back in the day. – [Simon] Can I put these on? – You can try and put them on, I don’t know how comfortable they’ll be. – Yeah, I think my ears are too big. – But basically from that,
the eyeshade was born. The sports performance
optics category was born. ‘Til that day nothing
really existed like that, you basically had a
goggle that you could wear as a piece of sunglasses. – So these in 1984, right? – That is 1984, yeah. – And that’s the like, sweat pads? – Yep, this is an original
eyeshade from back in the day. So even for something back then, when you look at that, having
the face foam like a goggle, the other thing was having
the adjustable ear stems that nothing in eyewear
had really ever seen, been done like that. Really, he was trying to make obviously like a goggle
strap’s adjustable, he wanted to make the ear stems adjustable ’cause obviously people’s
heads are different sizes. So you can see even at that stage how much technology he was trying to put into the eyewear at the time. So what you’ll see here,
the Blades were born. – [Simon] Yeah. – Which had that more square shape, not as much of a literal goggle shape. The ear stems were interchangeable. – And these are ’85? – Those are roughly around ’85. And then around ’86 you had
the Razor Blades come in. Which was one of the things
they noticed about this was, the size of it was great
because of its coverage it came, but for smaller faces
and things like that, they need something a little smaller. So the Razor Blade lens was born. Which you can see here, which was a little lower
profile than the Blades. On top of that, this is where really the technology component came in. Because one of the things that happened was if you change the height of this lens, what it does is it will
actually change the rake of how the lens sits on your face. So one of the things as he was going down the path of making technology, he wanted to make sure
that angle stayed the same. So the thing that was born
now was the Trigger ear stems. Because now that the
height of the lens change, putting this kink in
it actually helped keep the rake of the lens ar the
same angle as the Blade. – I’ve always wondered why
you got that kink in it, I thought it was an aesthetic thing. – Yeah, everyone thinks
an aesthetic thing, and this is why Razor
Blades have probably become so iconic, is ’cause of that kink. It was actually done for
a performance reason. – We could go on, through Mumbos, through M Frames, Racing Jackets, I mean the list of classics is a long one. But there is a more recent development that Oakley are particularly proud of. Their first range of helmets. (upbeat music) Now how is this for a piece of history? Check out those initials, there. Greg LeMond’s actual jersey. That’s amazing, isn’t it? (upbeat music) They’re not lying when they
say authorized personnel only. This is the design lab, and not only are we not allowed in there, but also half of Oakley are
not allowed in there either. But do not worry, because
we’ve got an appointment with a couple of designers
at a fake design lab that we’re gonna set up. (upbeat music) This is Daniel, who is
the design lead at Oakley and a part of the team that created the new range of helmets. His job was to sculpt a shape that performed both from
an aero perspective, as well as looking like something you’d actually want to wear. The shapes that you would expect to be fast are not that fast. We started with these elongated speedy looking, teardrop looking shapes. If you look at Ferraris you expect them to be this really slippery form in the aerodynamic chamber but it’s not. It’s actually the Prius that’s got the lowest drag coefficient. So that’s the thing, like I
can’t put a Prius on your head, because although it will be fast, it’s not gonna look fast
and you’re not gonna feel good putting that
on your head, right? – Yeah. So the trick then, is to design something that looks like a Ferrari but functions like a Prius. – Absolutely. Venting and non-vented areas, that balance is probably key to making a fast helmet because you
can make it really fast and close the whole thing up, but say you’re cycling
and you’re heating up then you lose performance
and slow down that way. I have a need to build some nice shapes here for ventilation. But second, this is what you see on TV, and if every other helmet looks like a Swiss cheese, you know, you can’t really recognize who’s is who’s. So that was kind of the biggest thing is okay, how can we create something really identifiable from brand perspective in the front, here? So there’s a lot of little
things here and there like that that took a lot of consideration. (upbeat music) – Right, so we’re still
in our fake design lab, but instead of going with the aesthetics and talking to Daniel about it, we’ve now got the
engineering brains behind it. So Chad, you head up that side of things, effectively taking the sketches and then making them into real things. Is that right? So we’ve talked about making it look cool, we’ve talked about making it fast, but I guess the primary function that really no one wants
to talk about with helmets is the fact that it’s gotta be safe, it’s gotta hopefully one day potentially save your life. When you’re starting from scratch, how easy is it to actually come up with something that functions correctly in those situations? – It’s really hard, so
what we essentially do is we just base everything
off of an offset, and then we give Daniel just
the plainest looking offset. We start with a head and we offset it and we say okay, here’s
our thickness, go ahead. And they start sketching
and if they violate any of those thicknesses,
then we have a conversation. – So you know that the EPS foam has to be a certain thickness in order to function correctly. And then it’s a case of removing bits that don’t affect the functionality of it. – Yeah, more or less. Like here’s a really good example. We have these giant vents here, they don’t pass. We learned that the hard way. So now we’re like, now what do we do? So we put this big plastic
bar across the front of it. That kinda helps pull everything together and now you have a
successful vent, essentially. (upbeat music) – In here, believe it or not, was Michael Jordan’s
private basketball court until about six years go. There’s also this 450 seater auditorium tucked away, complete with a tire mark from a Harley Davidson
that was doing a burnout and another one, this
time from a motocross bike that rode in and out
during the product launch. Now this rather unassuming door leads us to the vision performance lab, so this is like the R&D center for Oakley. (knocks) Hey, Wayne. – Come on in. – Thanks. This is the boss. I’m expecting to see some toys in here, have you got all the kit? – We got plenty of things to show you. (upbeat music) So one tool that’s really been valuable for the Advancer’s element, Flight Jacket and Field Jacket is this environmental chamber. – [Simon] Okay. – [Wayne] Right now we
have the Advancer Frame on a sweaty head. – [Simon] A sweaty head? – Right, so we developed this guy to pull some hot moisture
out onto some skin. We have a cold environment
that typically pulls steam on the lens, right, fogging. So we use this to really iterate how far we have to advance the frame in order to have that lens clear. So the Advancer frame for us, we’ve found the key was to advance it roughly five millimeters. That worked on virtually everybody. And within roughly five seconds of moving, all your fog dissipates. (upbeat music) Essentially we’re gonna shoot this guy with a quarter inch steel ball. One of these guys right here. – Like a ball bearing. – It’s a ball bearing. And there’s test requirements for this that say you have to shoot this guy at 150 feet per second, which is around 100 miles an hour. So this laser’s right where
we’re gonna hit the lens. – Okay. – We’re gonna close this glass here. You wanna get up here close to see this. (dramatic music) So if we look at the damage to this lens, it typically looks like a scratch. – [Simon] Yeah. – Right, you can feel a little bit on the front side of the lens, there. Feel the backside. You don’t really see
anything, feel anything there. – That’s nothing (chuckles). – So the lens material
is incredibly strong. But what’s important is
everything’s engineered as a unit. – Okay.
– So when we’re talking about we have to engineer the lens and the frame together to pass optics, as well as impact. (upbeat music) – Now this, frankly
terrifying looking bit of kit, is the high mass impact test. So different to the one we’ve seen before and we’ve got a much bigger weight, this is 500 grams. But it is fortunately
traveling slightly slower. We’re gonna drop it from a
height of 127 centimeters onto our poor head form here. But we are gonna at least give him a pair of glasses to start with, the kind of pair that you
might find in a gas station. (upbeat music) Ouch. So apparently, that lens
is made from a plastic called CR 39. And doesn’t look like it’s exactly tough. Next up then, pair of Oakleys. (upbeat music) There we go. Little bit of a difference, isn’t it? Now, that isn’t obviously gonna represent something being flicked up off the road, that more like if you fall off your bike and headbutt your brake lever or something equally horrific like that. I’m guessing that was an impact test that went wrong, that one. Now this looks like quite
a cool bit of kit, Wayne. What exactly are we gonna
be looking at, here? – This is where we test optics. So for this brand, optics are
really what we’re built on. What we’ll see with the laser is we have a laser 35 feet away. On this monitor you can see a bullseye. And ultimately what we
want is minimal change. – Yeah.
– Right? If we have minimal change, then essentially light’s
passing right through that lens and entering your eye at a proper angle, allowing you to see. – [Simon] Okay. – So that’s an Oakley frame
there, minimal change. If I show you, this
happens to be a competitor, we won’t talk about it, but … – Wow. – What matters is that we still
have a curve to that frame, and we see a lot of deviation. On this guy up here,
what we need to maintain is lines of definition, right? So the test requirement says you have to meet 20 lines of resolution on all four sides. So two groups of three all the way around, you see the 20 on the right.
– Yep. – If you can hit 20 lines of resolution you’ve met the highest
optical standard in the world. That’s an industrial standard for optics. And you can see with this
frame we’re nearly double. 40 lines of resolution. For us in this building,
20 is just a bench mark, a minimum requirement. We achieve for the best optics we can. – And then on to the manufacturing. Unfortunately, despite being shown around, we weren’t actually allowed to film. Which is a real shame because, well frankly it was amazing. Firstly, the raw materials coming in, being melted down, and then
with the necessary tints then added for each type of lens. Then nor so, the fact that the molds for the lenses cost up to
half a million dollars, each. And potentially you’d
need up to five molds for the most popular ranges of sunglasses. It kinda makes you think how much it costs to actually design and manufacture a new pair of glasses in the first place. I did ask that question, and I was told it was about one million dollars. Now after the mold, the lenses are cut to an accuracy of not quite
point five millimeters. This apparently ensures that the lenses are a perfect fit in the frames because any compression
of them to get them to fit would actually distort the lens. However fractionally, but
enough to get rejected by Oakley’s quality control. After the lens is cut, it gets taken to have its coating applied. Now this is a separate
process from the tint. It’s a time consuming one, different shades iridium take different amounts of time. Apparently jade iridium takes upwards of four hours to complete. (upbeat music) Now before we leave for Hill Ranch, we have one last piece of
tech to find out more about. Prizm technology, which
is where certain tints added to the lenses and then
filter out certain colors and enhance others. It’s specific to certain sports. The aim being to improve
the vision of the wearer. – So with cycling, if you
look at a road surface it’s actually absorbing
a lot of the light, so you’re void of contrast. And so one of the leverages
is our eye sensitivities, bring in more of the
good light where our eyes are more sensitive to seeing details and filter more of the bad light out so that we can get better contrast. If you wanna get really in depth, we actually take a device called our hyper spectral camera
out onto the field, onto different environments and measure exactly what light is
reflecting off of the surfaces. So we can tune the lenses for that.
– So you literally go to a piece of pavement or tarmac and then say this is reflecting this amount.
– Exactly these wavelengths. It would be a similar graph showing us what wavelengths are
reflecting off of that surface. So when we put a Prizm lens
on in front of our eyes, you can tell that it’s
filtering light very differently from that gray lens. The manufacturing process of a Prizm lens is the same as our other lenses. The difference, the magic,
is in the Prizm dyes. So we actually mix the
dyes in different recipes, depending on the lens and the
profile that we wanna create and I’ll show you kinda
what that looks like. So this is an individual dye, heres another individual dye. And you can see when we mix the dyes we start to get somewhat similar to that profile that you saw. – [Simon] Yeah. – And depending on how
much we use of each one, we can make a profile for any of the environments that we have. – Those dyes then, that
actually affects the color of the lens itself. But what about the coatings then, so the iridium coating that goes on top, does that interact with the Prizm dyes, or is that completely separate? – The iridium is a coating that goes on the front of the lens, and it’s actually reflecting light. So if you look at the lens,
you can see what light is reflecting off of the front. – So that would affect what
your eyes is detecting. – Right. If you’re reflecting
light that means it’s not getting through to your eyes. We use the iridium coating in conjunction with the Prizm recipes so that we can get the exact profile that we want. So we take into account what light is gonna be reflected off
of the front of the iridium. – Now that sounds like quite
a complicated process, then, given how many different
colored iridium coatings or how many Prizm leans profiles, right? And each one has to be factored in. And do you need to take into consideration the different lenses as well, the different shapes? Or is that like a given? – No so the lens shape we can make, for example, this Road Prizm lens, it comes in different lens shapes. We actually develop it to work
with different lens shapes. As far as the iridiums,
we choose the iridiums based on that lens base and vice versa. So if we want a certain iridium color, like a green iridium, we’d
make sure that the base works in conjunction with that color. For Road, we’ve found that
this iridium worked best with that road base to bring
in the colors that we want. (upbeat music) – Well this brings us to the end of our factory tour from here at Oakley. I’m currently waiting on
their very own helipad for my lift home. Waiting, perhaps, a bit optimistically. I could be here for some time. But while we wait, do make
sure you give this video a big thumbs up, say thank
you very much to Oakley for showing us around. Remember to get involved in the comments and also stay tuned to GCN as well ’cause we’ve got a load more videos coming up from right here at Hill Ranch. Well there we go. Gotta say I wasn’t expecting that but that was very nice of them.

100 comments on “Oakley Factory Tour | How Are Cycling Sunglasses Made?

  1. if only Oakley made helmets that fit large heads! I got to wear my Swiss cheese-esque Poc as a result of Oakleys not fitting my 62.5cm circumference head. 🙁


  2. Oakley… craftsmanship and top shelf aesthetic. Bought my first in 1989 and my latest jawbreakers last year.

    Vendors take note, make cutting edge, high quality products and have loyal customers for life.

  3. When Oakley was its own local company Evil Luxotica stopped selling Oakley’s at their Sunglass huts. Killed sales and evil corporation bought them out for cheap. Sad.

  4. Has GCN now sold out to anyone who pays them money to do videos?

    Wiggle, Canyon, SIS and Oakley are recent examples that spring to mind….

    I will now view any reviews or recommendations you make with scepticism 🙁

  5. My frameless Oakley EV Zero Stride Prizm road are by far the best cycling sunglasses I have ever owned. The clarity and incredible visibility in any weather conditions is absolutely mind blowing

  6. Ever since Luxotica took over, their lens keep peeling off. Till today this issue has not been resolved. Durability of lens has gone down the drain.

  7. Oakley used to be a great product, but their quality is so bad and products feel so cheap now it’s just not worth the money anymore. Materials and workmanship is very poor.

  8. I used to be a value for money guy until I started to have vision problems with sunglasses. With what Oakley have been able to show dealing with clarity and optical accuracy it has changed my perception to what I deserve.
    Thanks GCN for the tour with Si.

  9. I found this difficult to watch. As a business you’ve really started to capitalise on your successes. That’s understandable. This video is far too far the other way, it’s nothing more than an advert. There’s no significant cycling in this video. It reeks of opportunism.
    I fear that your recent rapid expansion, along with a more prominent focus on marketing, will be detrimental in the longer term. Your popularity was built on relatability to cyclists in most communities, not by being a marketing agent. Don’t even get me started on “your mates at wiggle”. Painful.

  10. Fakes have made Oakley looks really cheap nowadays.

    I am surprised Oakley factory in US uses machines that are made in China (12:16).

  11. Yeah I know Oakley shades are over-hyped and over priced, but they have protected my eyes for nearly thirty years…. Plus they saved me from being blinded from stones thrown up by car tyres several times…When subject to impact, most sunglasses lens will fracture into several jagged pieces….Subject to the same test, Oakley lens will bend and deform, and not shatter….

  12. Oakley tinting sucks. Their glasses when used in a hot and humid environment (Asia) will have the tint flake off! Anyone in Asia will know this. Ruby does not flake like Oakely.

  13. As a SoCal moto dude, I had Oakley grips and goggles as a 12 year old, and then I spent all of '85 – '87 in Blades….. and yes, I had an 80's mullet too.

  14. I had a friend who saw me (proudly) wearing my Oakleys. She said "You know I work at the Sunglass warehouse and they cost us $5." That was my last pair.

  15. Ive had my alixpress variants (JB's) for 2yrs now (x10 lens) and theyre fkg fantastic! 😉 – even got a pink lens !!!!!!

  16. How much or rather how far had Oakley gone in its R&D?? They really need to improve drastically on the quality of its lens…..

  17. Bla, bla, bla expensive lens, always the same technology, only changes the frame because in CHINA do the same product faster than they, oakley is pure smoke and his helmets a rude fraud without experience.

  18. Forgot to add the part showing how the glasses are made in China for about a dollar then marked up to 250 once they get to you

  19. Most crappiest lens ever bought, I had 3 pairs and the tint comes off when wiped, didnt use any solvents and just used a normal lens cloth. Never buying OAKLEY again.

  20. Oaklwy WAS a great brand. Love the old eyewear and items put out by Jim Jannard, but since Luxotica forcefully bought the company, it has pretty much gone to shit

  21. The stated price for those molds is pretty accurate, I was the designer of them back when I worked at the mold vendor that built their lens tooling, and the molds were not cheap to build. The accuracy demanded by Oakley was no joke, and every aspect of the design was looked at to help produce the most optically accurate lenses in the world. Pretty cool to see that my designs are still making lenses today!

  22. Mine first Oakley’s the Romeo yesssss Romeo love them until I lost them 😭😭😭😭😭 second ones square wire like them not love them the next ones the tapers that’s when I noticed that Oakley’s getting crappy 😢😢😢😢😢 I try the tin can but nop Oakley’s suck now

  23. Good to see the simplicity of how the eye shade was born, still wear mine to this day. They have stood the test of time, and I feel they are still up there with the coolest shades. Thanks as always for an insight into Oakley.

  24. Fantastic video. I watch something else that sportrx did and that's what made me really like Oakleys even more than I already had. I've got three pair now and I love each one of them and they are very well made and constructed. Keep up the good work Wonderful video

  25. I was at the soft play centre last weekend and overheard another parent who'd named his child "Oakley'. FFS. !
    I might call my second born 'Cannondale' .

  26. I want to buy lance for my okale fuelcell oo9096 – 84 which is polorieied with dark blue mercury.
    I search every where but result is this sunglass is out of production. And for get this sunglass or lance contact in Italy. But I am not getting correct address or email id for company .
    I live in India I leave my email id willuou have avalable this glass then please contact or mail me
    [email protected]
    Sir I live in india

  27. I used to work inside manufacturing I have inside video of how they made but after luxxatica both Oakley in 2007 Oakley started using cheaper materials to make lenses they tried to manufacture glasses in China but they came back cheaper made and they were scratchong and breaking easier I don't know if they still made in China and assemble in USA

  28. Hi GCN, I'm an avid fan. I just finish Ironman 70.3 Cebu, Phils. Thanks for the videos, it helps me a lot on the bike course.

  29. This proves my theory, I always save for that bit longer and purchase Oakley. You can just tell the difference when playing sports or simply driving. Great video GCN

  30. Very interesting tour video for their Sport glasses which are still the best. But I totally lost interest in Oakley – it’s very obvious that Luxottica pressures Oakley to release as many glass designs as possible regardless of whether they will do well. It used to be a big deal when something new was released, but for the most part, not anymore.

  31. Overprised and not much better then opponens… what to say. Similar logic like buying Iphone knowing its not better chineese phones 😀

  32. Thanks for the very informative video. I got a pair of Flight Jacket Prizm Road glasses after I saw all the benefits (safety, vision) and I'm really thrilled. Love all the GCN videos – keep it up!

  33. please bring back the original zeros ….the ones from 1998….they where the best…all oakleys are way too big and bulky now…the smaller the lense the better….I just want my eyes covered not half my face

  34. I live in this county. Had friends work there and I believe my friend's brother(his brother was a classmate of mine in High School) still works there.

  35. been an Oakley fan for long time. First pair of real sunglasses Oakley, last set Oakley fuel cell. I must admit I can't follow the product after it moves operations to China. I used to be the same with Dr. Martin's then they moved to China and the boot went from comfortable to absolutely agonising.

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